Hiking Underwater on Fashion Week

On Monday morning, I was sipping cappuccino outside a café in downtown Milan when a woman of indeterminate age sat down at the table in front of me. I say indeterminate age because while her unsteady movements and long yellow-white hair hinted at an elderly woman, her fishnet stockings and stilettos put out a different vibe. Her face was no help either. It was a mask of surgical enhancements, a puffy and almost animatronic façade that shifted in little jerks as the woman berated the waitress. I could tell you about all the diva behavior I witnessed from one table over, but that isn’t the point. The point is that later in the day, I ran an image search for woman in Milan with too much plastic surgery and called Dan over triumphantly when I found a photo of my café companion:

Donatella[Image found here.]

I’m not sure if it’s a point in our favor or an inexcusable lapse in pop culture savvy that neither Dan nor I recognized the woman in the photo as Donatella Versace until we’d read the post. I just about choked when I saw her name. “You don’t think… Could it really have been…? I’m not 100% sure…” It hadn’t occurred to me to snap a photo of the woman at the café, so all I can tell you with certainty, dear readers, is that I may or may not have spent Monday morning watching Donatella Versace spill various beverages on our waitress and then snap at her for it.

This whole week in Milan has had a surreal quality for me. I had planned to go about life as normally as possible while we’re here, unapologetically retreating however many hours of the day necessary not to lose myself. Time hasn’t been the problem though. My physiology has. It’s as if my body has been keeping tabs on all missed hours of sleep from the past few months and decided to collect on them at once. I have slept so much this week that dignity prevents me from being more specific, yet my brain continues slumping over with fatigue. Trying to work my way back to myself right now is like hiking underwater while pulling a disobedient walrus on a leash. I feel psychedelic, and not in a groovy way.

All this rest has to be making a difference though, and I have every hope that soon I’ll be able to recover lost attributes like energy and consciousness. I’m letting myself accept this week as an unintended reboot. I’m not all the way to relishing it yet, but there is such a unique brand of relief in surrendering to a nap, in sprawling out under the ceiling fan and letting all my expectations for the next hour (or four) evaporate off my skin. I hardly ever slow down unless my body up and forces me to, so even though this week has felt surreal and disconnected and maddeningly slow, I can see how it too is a form of grace.


Shock Wave

On Wednesday night, the four of us had the chance to watch Italy’s national soccer team play a friendly match against Luxembourg right here in our local stadium. This felt… epic. The World Cup is the only sporting event I’ve ever really followed, and the Italian squad has reached Dream Team proportions in my mind. That the very first live soccer game of my life would be the NATIONAL TEAM, playing in my OWN NEIGHBORHOOD, felt significant enough to inspire a ballad or two. Or, at the very least, a live-blog.

That was before we got in line outside the stadium though. Do you remember this? Now picture the same scenario with thousands of people instead of just twenty-three. The crowd didn’t so much move forward as it did compress, everyone elbow-first, angry yells breaking out every five seconds or so as someone else jumped the line. We stood in that thing for an hour and a half, having an increasingly difficult time protecting the girls from the crush, and finally we had to jump the line ourselves, ducking under the barrier because it was either that or risk our children’s lives.

When we made it into the stadium, the game was already starting, and our seats had been taken by someone else, and any last wisps of humor I may have been holding blew away. I was in no mood to live-blog. All I wanted to do in that moment was move to Canada where I would never have to worry about having my face elbowed or my children squished or my seat stolen. Other unpleasant public encounters these last seven years in Italy sprang to memory as if on cue: mothers pushing their children in front of mine to use the showers after swim class, other drivers rushing to take the parking spot for which I’d been waiting, bus-fuls of comfortably seated people watching me struggle to balance, standing, with a baby and a toddler in my arms.

I hate having to play by the rules of Every Man For Himself. It makes me feel slimy and indecent, and I’ve often found myself furious with the Italian culture for forcing me into an assertive posture that doesn’t fit me. I don’t want to have to stick up for myself. I don’t want to have to confront strangers. I much prefer polite, orderly systems in which everyone follows the same code of civility and keeps his elbows to himself, thank you very much.

This line of thinking didn’t last long on Wednesday evening though. With a mix of disbelief and admiration, I watched as thousands of people who had just been shoving and yelling at each other outside came together as one enthusiastic entity. The whole stadium broke out in the Italian national anthem and then moved on to fight songs (“Whoever’s not jumping is for Luxembourg!”). They kept The Wave going around and around. Their cheering rose and fell in perfect synchronism, and no one’s spirit seemed dampened in the least by the fact that the Italian team was playing like a herd of elderly milk cows. (Luxembourg tied Italy 1-1 in the second half, and you could see the players’ shrugs of indifference from the stands. Moooooo.)

It didn’t take long for me to get swept up in the raucous, communal fun of it all. I’d been looking forward to the evening because of the chance to watch the national team play, but in the end, the fans were what made the game worth attending. They exemplified everything I love about Italians—their loyalty, their warmth, their sense of community (notwithstanding how they act in line), and their commitment to enjoying life—and reminded me that as much as adjusting to this culture can unsettle and drain me, it can also fill and delight. Sometimes even on the same night.

Italian soccer game 2


Village Appreciation Day

Elementary schools are set up a little differently here in Italy than they are in the U.S. For one thing, kids here typically go to school six days a week but only in the mornings. This allows families to eat the main meal of the day together, and then children spend the afternoon doing homework, going to extracurricular activities, and living it up at the neighborhood playgrounds. There are some schools with a five-days-a-week, eight-hours-a-day setup to accommodate working parents, but most families still choose mornings-only and enlist grandparents to babysit in the afternoons if need be. (We don’t have the grandparent option, but since Dan and I both started working from home, family life has become about 2,089,573,101 times less complicated. And all God’s entrepreneurs said amen.)

Another significant difference here is that teachers are assigned to a class in first grade and then stay with that group of kids all the way through fifth grade. This can be wonderful and reassuring if you get good teachers.

…And if you don’t?

I devoted significant energy to worrying over this four years ago when Natalie was about to start first grade and again last year when it was Sophie’s turn. What if the girls ended up with someone calloused and grim, someone to whom children’s presence tasted like unripe lemons? Someone drunk on power or palest green with inexperience or prejudiced against foreigners like us? What if their teachers were the kind to tread on sensitive, creative little hearts? What if my girls had to spend five long years’ worth of school days in a classroom taut with tension and defeat?

I was reminded of these fears last Saturday morning at the girls’ school recital, but not for the reason you might think. Sophie’s first-grade class started off with a little skit about how they had once been afraid they’d get witches for teachers, and I laughed along with the other parents while reflecting that my own fears for my daughter hadn’t been so very different. I had gone into my girls’ school experience geared up to fear and resent their teachers, imagining the worst of them before we’d even met.

This was a sobering realization as I looked around the room on Saturday and saw the faces of the women who have guided and encouraged and invested in my girls over the school year(s), women who were every bit as proud of my children’s academic progress as I was. I kept sneaking peeks at the teachers during the girls’ performances, and the affection radiating from their faces was enough to untie a knot somewhere in my throat. Fear was a distant (and regretful) memory. All I had left was gratitude, so full-bodied and sweet it blurred my vision.

Gratitude for those who have made education their lives’ work.
Gratitude for the creativity and fun they bring to the classroom despite budget cuts and bureaucratic hurdle-fests.
Gratitude for the unique imprints they have left on my daughters through their insights, personalities, and talents.
Gratitude for their presence in my girls’ lives, every teacher a support column to their childhoods.

I once believed that “It takes a village” was liberal propaganda designed to undermine the family structure, and I’m sure that residual fallout from that belief helps explain why I was so afraid of the girls’ teachers sight-unseen. As I’ve experienced in so many aspects of my journey away from fundamentalism, though, fears lose their claustrophobic grip once I’m out in the spacious, grace-full open. I’m not saying that bad teachers don’t exist or that we haven’t been fortunate so far, but my mindset is coming from a different direction now—one of preemptive appreciation rather than preemptive dread. And as Saturday morning solidified for me, I am above and beyond grateful for this little village in which my girls get to grow.


A Summer Without Sequels

I want to blame it all on the allergies—the way my head rolls bowling-ball heavy atop my neck, the thick woolly fog obscuring my vision, the struggle to make myself see even journal entries through to the end. It would be a justified accusation too. May and June are my Kryptonite, a radiant green that sucks the energy right out of me. I could write a poem in the pollen swirled across the surface of our car.

Allergies alone, however, do not explain why I’ve spent this week clutching a to-do list like it’s a Get Out Of Writing Free card. They don’t explain my almost desperate search for distraction when I sit down at my computer (“Why hasn’t anyone shared a BuzzFeed article in the last three minutes??”) or my avoidance of quiet alone time. Allergies may have everything to do with the Visigoth rave going on in my sinuses right now, but they’re not to blame for this creative paralysis. Not solely, at least. Maybe not even at all.

Last summer, I lost myself. More accurately, I let go of my own hand, choosing soul-disconnect over the more painful parts of my reality. I didn’t know any other way to cope.

To be honest, I still don’t really know how to talk about that time. I barely wrote anything during those three months, and what I did scratch down in my journal is as jagged as broken glass. I skim the entries as lightly as I can before drawing back, cut to the quick. I’d like to blot it all out of my mind, let last summer accomplish what it started and erase me from its memory.

The fear of it is still fresh though, or rather, a fear of its sequel. We leave in less than two weeks for a vagabond-style summer, and this is enough to send my mind into a self-protective tizzy. What if time charges away from me again this year? What if I look around and can’t see a place for myself? What if I feel too much? What if the joys of ice cream and swimsuits and late starry walks aren’t enough to hold me in place?

If I lose myself again, will I be able to find my way back?

My head feels heavier than it should, over-packed with histamines and fears alike. I’ve been trying to distract myself the hell out of Dodge, but it’s not working… which, duh. In what universe is running away from heart, mind, and soul a safeguard against losing them? That’s why I’m writing this, by the way, out of a determination that this summer isn’t going to be a sequel. Shut-down isn’t an option I’m allowing myself this time around. I’m going to feel the things I feel—feel them head-on without rushing over to Facebook for a quick numbing fix. I’m going to inhabit my life, the hard parts as well as the good. I’ll do my damndest to lean into painful changes instead of resisting them (easier said than done by a power of three bajillion, but still) and to be a scientist of my own spiritual journey, and it’s just possible that I can end the summer more alive than when I started it. Allergies notwithstanding.


The Rainbow and the Snugglebug

If you’ve been reading my blog for long, you might have noticed that I don’t share much personal info about my girls anymore. I never made a conscious decision to “retire” them from the blog, but as they’ve grown out of toddlerhood into bona fide kids, I’ve tried to respect their privacy as I would anyone else’s. This is a learning process for me, as it is for many bloggers I think: how to write about our real lives without violating the real people in them. It’s been a challenge trying to find my place on the continuum between Anne Lamott’s permission to write about anything that’s ever happened to us and Darren Prince’s conviction that we shouldn’t publish encounters with other people without their consent, and I don’t always get it right. Sometimes I regret having used someone else—even anonymously—as an example. Other times, I regret that I didn’t share a story out of fear that it might offend someone. And what about the times when I’m aching to dedicate a blog post to my girls but don’t want to trespass on their privacy?

Well, that’s not actually a hard one, in the end…

Natalie and Sophie have read this post and given me permission to proceed, though Sophie contends that it’s too short. I guess this just means we’ll have to do it again soon! </disclaimer>

I used to write monthly letters to the girls but stopped being able to keep up with them when I got a job a few years back. Once I found time to restart the habit, so many months had passed that the whole thing overwhelmed me, like an overflowing bin of photos waiting to be scrapbooked. I tried a couple of times to write backdated letters—how cool would it be if the girls could go into adulthood with a keepsake letter for every month of their childhood?—but the project had gotten too big, and I was too busy, and it is with no small amount of disappointment now that I admit that ship has sailed.

My longing to remember and preserve the infinite editions of these two rapidly growing girls has not abated, but I’m trying to allow myself the grace to be just their mom, not their biographer. “Pics or it didn’t happen” does not apply to mamalove, no matter how many moments we forget to Instagram. Still though, I don’t want this stage of life to slip by without a memorial, without my taking the time to acknowledge and marvel and really see this nine-year-old and this six-year-old that somehow, inexplicably, are mine.

So without further disclaimers or ado, here are my favorite things about these ages:

What I love about 9-years-old

What I love about 9

  • 9 always has something to say. ALWAYS. Even while she is brushing her teeth, her mind is so full of exciting bits of information that she can’t help it if a few burst out. She’s always ready to offer helpful advice or fill in knowledge gaps in a conversation (Seriously, how does the girl know so much?? I would be afraid to go up against her in Jeopardy), and when she talks about her plans for the future—currently, to be an artist/scientist—you’re liable to find yourself lifted right off your feet by her enthusiasm.
  • 9 is an emotional rainbow, covering a wide and dazzling range of moods in any given day. This can be… exhausting. But it can also be beautiful and mesmerizing, like watching a newly hatched butterfly unfold in increments. Plus, I find new admiration for my daughter every time she identifies her own emotions and tries to work with them (as opposed to my lifelong strategy of bingeing on sugar and waiting for it all to go away).
  • 9 is an infinite loop of curiosity and creativity. She devours books and films, absorbing details that I never would have noticed, and then sprinkles elements of them into her own fantastic stories and drawings. (If you ever come to visit, I’ll show you her “Car Wars” poster above my writing desk. It’s every bit as awesome as you’d imagine.)
  • 9 is officially a Big Kid, something my mama-brain struggles to keep up with. I’m still getting used to the aura of capability around her, the responsibility she takes both for herself and for any younger kids she might be with. I watched from the balcony today as she walked her little sister home from school, hand in hand, and it made my heart feel tender to the touch… both because she’s growing up so quickly and because she’s doing it so well.

What I love about 6-years-old

What I love about 6

  • 6 is hilarious—uninhibited, mischievous, and endlessly entertaining. This child makes us laugh more than any comedian, ever. She’s a genius at inappropriate humor, a master of comic timing, and the author and perfecter of the gratuitous shimmy. I cannot imagine life without her gap-toothed giggle, so I guess this means she’ll need to stay six forever. That would be just fine with me.
  • 6 approaches every single area of life with earnest. The way this kid runs—pell-mell forward, full-speed-ahead—reflects the way she goes about learning and loving too. She puts her whole weight into creative pursuits and her whole heart into relationships. She feels everything full-strength… and this is a strength for her, because a sensitive and open soul has the capacity to love the whole world. And she does.
  • 6 has the energy of about 37 healthy adults. Where it comes from, I can’t imagine, unless she took most of mine in-utero and is now cloning it in some secret lab accessible only by hula-hoop. She never walks when she could be running or stands still when she could be dancing. Even her eyes are boisterous (see photo above). Simply writing this paragraph makes me want a nap, but I have to admit, it can be fun to have people around who keep you on your toes. Especially ones you can put to bed at 8:30.
  • 6 is a snugglebug. She’s as affectionate as a puppy, and cuddling with her before bed helps me forget my sadness that we’re done with the baby stage. There is something deeply healing about having a child melt against you, comforted by your closeness; is it any wonder that 6-years-old leaves me melting in response?

Choice and Effect

[Photo snapped at the running trail near our house]

I used to be a psychology major. Did you know that? I originally went into elementary education, but two weeks into my first education class, I knew I was headed down the wrong career path. (Out of all the homework assignments I completed at college, decorating a poster to explain number sets to first-graders was the only one that made me weep with frustration.) I then switched to psychology, much to the apathy of my department advisor. “I want to become a counselor who can help children and families out of abusive situations!” I announced with all the optimism of one about half a step into her own recovery. “Mm,” said my advisor, glancing at her watch. She clearly knew something about my future in psychology that I didn’t learn for myself until one day halfway through my junior year when I was tutoring a group of freshmen in creative writing and thinking that really, the school didn’t even need to pay me for it; I just loved working with the English language that much. In fact, I’d choose to read all thousand-plus pages of the Chicago Manual of Style over a five-page psychology case study any day.

“Wow, I’m so surprised you’re switching your major to English!” said no one. My parents kindly refrained from mentioning that every career test I’d taken throughout high school had told me I was meant for writing. My future husband, best friends, and liberal arts professors all took an it’s-about-time stance, and that was that. But what I want to tell you about today took place before the switch, back when I was still immersed in psychology coursework.

During class one afternoon, my professor handed out a questionnaire meant to help us discover how much control we felt we had over our own lives. I can’t remember the official terminology, but it was designed to evaluate in ten minutes or less whether we were fatalists or… uh, whatever the opposite of that would be. Controlists? (Psychologist friends, help!) That damn questionnaire ranks as second most overwhelming homework assignment of my college career. I could not figure out how to answer the simple multiple-choice, no-wrong-answer questions.

I believe that my success in life is:
A) Dependent on hard work and perseverance
B) Up to chance

When something bad happens to me, I:
A) Believe that I caused it by something I did
B) Believe other people or circumstances out of my control caused it

What I needed was an “All of the above” option because, as it turned out, I believed simultaneously that I was powerless to change my life and that every negative aspect of my life was my fault. Lord o’ mercy.

Discovering this about myself did absolutely nothing to fix it. Religious dysfunction runs deep, and my theology had taught me that even though God was Supreme Micromanager of the Universe, I could inadvertently sway his decisions by being too [fill-in-the-blank] or not [fill-in-the-blank] enough. The good in my life—and there was much good—made me feel like I was getting away with something, that some glitch in the divine system was giving me an edge I didn’t deserve. Meanwhile, the difficult parts of my life were proof of my own personal failure. The result was that I strove for perfection without ever seeing the correlation between hard work and good results. I had absolutely no concept of goal-setting.

Truth be told, I still didn’t have a concept of it last year when I started training for a marathon—arguably one of the biggest goals a couch potato like me could set. I find it notable that I signed up for the marathon to see if I could surprise myself; I put no real trust in my training program or the slow and steady progress I made throughout those five months. It all seemed up to fate until the very end, when I sank my jellified bones onto a bench in the finishers’ zone and considered what I had just done. What I had done. With willpower and time and action verbs and a very conscious determination to try, I had succeeded at a challenge. Fatalism could go stuff it.

Marathon - Finisher

I didn’t realize how profoundly the marathon had changed my thinking though until a couple of weeks ago. Sophie had brought home a poem to memorize for school, and I kept hearing snatches of it as I walked past her room. She even tried practicing it while she brushed her teeth. I was impressed to see a first-grader taking that much initiative, and it wasn’t a surprise the next day to hear she had gotten the highest possible grade on her recitation. “Great job!” I told her. “You worked so hard to memorize that poem, and it paid off!”

Perhaps that is a very normal thing for a parent to say, but the words felt shiny and exotic slipping over my tongue. Never before had I linked cause and effect so confidently, and it wasn’t limited to my daughter’s grades either. I realized that I was holding several challenging areas of life in my hands, weighing them and strategizing instead of just brooding over them from afar. For the first time I can remember, I felt like I had a say in the outcomes of my life. Not the full say, and probably not the final one either, but the power to chart new directions nonetheless.

I’m afraid that if I write any more, this post will degenerate into a vaguely formulaic, click-bait-style article (“How Running a Marathon Turned Me Into an Optimist!”), and the last thing I want to treat as trivial is my journey out of fundamentalism. I want you to know though that while claiming power over one’s own life may sound like an Oprah-ism, it’s really the rush of wind changing directions. It’s the glorious muck on your hands as you shape goals into being. It’s the crumple of a psychology questionnaire hitting the wastebasket because you no longer need multiple-choice questions to define (or upend) you. It’s the rhythm of running shoes on pavement, steady with the hope that you’re actually, finally going somewhere.


Curse-Word Hymns

One of the best things about road-tripping with Dan is getting those long, uninterrupted miles of time to talk. Early in our relationship, I worried that we’d eventually run out of things to say to each other, and I suppose there’s some validity in that. After all, we live together and work together and can pretty much catch up on each other’s news over a three-minute espresso break. Our day-to-day interactions tend to cluster around the present though—how work projects are going, what to do about Parenting Challenge #5,000,008, which brand of toothpaste is on sale at the grocery store, who’s going to take one for the team and vacuum—and while these are all incredibly glamorous and sexy topics to be sure, they don’t exactly cover the scope of human communication.

In eleven years of marriage, we haven’t left many conversational stones unturned, but coming back to them is always a new experience. I’ve changed so much in the past decade. My views on any given subject are liable to be 180º degrees from what they were when we first talked through it, and part of me feels guilty over that, as if I got Dan to choose me based on false advertising. His love has proven to be expansive though, more than enough to cover all the different iterations of me. Through Dan’s unconditional fondness for me, I’ve been able to grasp the idea of a spacious God… and that’s where one of our road-trip conversations led us last weekend.

We were talking about how people commune with God, and I confessed that no matter how much I’ve tried over the last several years, I just cannot get my soul to click with religious music anymore. Christian bands, worship songs, pretty much any churchy phrases set to chords chafe at me like an outgrown hat. This makes me sad sometimes. I remember what it was like to agree with my heart and my vocal cords with the sentiments of an entire congregation, to float out of my body on the strains of communal devotion. I don’t have that anymore.

But talking with my husband about it helped me re-remember for the umpteenth time that I don’t have to fit in a mold to love and be loved by God. I don’t have to speak or think or vote like a stereotypical Christian (whatever that might be) in order to align my life with Jesus. I don’t have to accept traditional spiritual practices as the only way. And I don’t have to connect with “religious music” to have a religious musical experience. In the end, this thrills me far more than it saddens me. Finding God in unexpected places makes spirituality real to me in a way that predictable experiences never do, so if God is meeting me through rap rather than hymns, I can only take that as proof that my ever-changing self is still very much covered by love.

I haven’t done a Non-Churchy Songs for the Soul roundup in a while, but today feels just right for sharing eight more unconventional tracks that are pulling at my soul-strings these days:

1. Glósóli by Sigur Rós
I can’t watch this video without crying. I know that drum-beating rescuer with the kind eyes, don’t you see. This is the story of Jesus… and of the tremulous hope, the rag-tag trust, and the dizzying joy of freedom that have become my story too.

“And here you are, Glowing Sun,
And here you are, Glowing Sun,
And here you are, Glowing Sun,
And here you are…”

2. Rambling Man by Laura Marling
All of Laura’s songs are poetry, but this one in particular folds me into a higher mindset. It’s introspection and self-evaluation and a determined authenticity, and the video above should give you a clue as to how I interpret the rambling life.

“It’s a cold and a pale affair,
And I’ll be damned if I’ll be found there.
Oh give me to a rambling man,
Let it always be known that I was who I am.”

3. Starting Over by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
I have proven myself incapable of doing anything but sitting up to listen when Macklemore’s on the stereo. This track is one of the best biographies of grace I’ve ever heard, and it always makes me grateful for the hard, beautiful work of being human together. (Just a heads up that this song involves decidedly non-churchy language.)

“We fall so hard,
Now we gotta get back what we lost.
I thought you’d gone,
But you were with me all along.”

4. I Want to be Well by Sufjan Stevens
I’ve posted this song before because it so fully expresses my gut feelings/thoughts/prayers when PTSD yanks my breath out from under me. (Note: The following does not involve polite language either.) What comes to mind when I listen to it is a question from the Bible that Jesus asked a lifelong invalid: “Do you want to get well?” How many times had that man wailed to God, “I’m not fucking around”? And to learn, after all those years, that neither was God…

 “I want to be well, I want to be well,
I want to be well, I want to be well.
I’m not fucking around, I’m not, I’m not,
I’m not fucking around.”

5. Me and God by The Avett Brothers
Now, you know I’ve got to love anyone who admits to using curse words when they pray. (See: previous two songs.) I can still remember what it was like to read in the Bible, of all places, that God just wanted our honest, simple selves—no church-sanctioned polish, no middle men on pedestals, just us. The relief of it still makes me grin wide.

 “Well I found God in a soft woman’s hair,
A long day’s work and a good sittin’ chair,
The ups and downs of the treble clef lines,
And five miles ago on an interstate sign.
My God, my God and I don’t need a middle man.”

6. When Death Dies by Gungor
I’m fudging my own rules to include this self-proclaimed Christian band on the list, but I’ve never heard a beat-boxing cellist at church, so I think you’ll forgive me. This song is everything I believe about heaven, everything I believe we get to dream of one day.

 “Where it comes, poor men feast.
Kings fall down to their knees.
When death dies, all things live,
All things live.”

7. Bible Belt by Dry the River
This is another one that speaks directly to my experience growing up under fundamentalism. It’s sad and beautiful and ultimately shining bright with the hope that comes of bravery and companionship. And if I said that Jesus was the one waiting for me on the 5:45 to whisk me away from the Bible Belt, would you believe me?

“Cause we’ve been through worse than this before we could talk.
The trick of it is, don’t be afraid anymore.”

8. Take Up Your Spade by Sarah Watkins
Sarah’s always had a way of making life sound uncomplicated and pure, and this little hymn to new days and new grace helps get me out of bed when the morning dawns heavy. Plus, that’s Fiona Apple singing with her. Perfection.

 “Shake off your shoes, leave yesterday behind you,
Shake off your shoes but forget not where you’ve been,
Shake off your shoes, forgive and be forgiven;
Take up your spade and break ground.”

What about you? Any songs been tugging at your soul-strings lately?

Previous roundups:

Sweaty Horns, Cracking Voices

Reggae and Redemption

Upside-Down Art: Jaw Harp Jam

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